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Tips from the Monastery: Keeping an Icon under your Pillow

Tips from the Monastery: Keeping an Icon under your Pillow

Tips from the Monastery: Keeping an Icon under your Pillow

I bought a new pillow the other day, three days ago to be exact. I was excited because I often wake up with headaches and so I was anticipating a great night’s sleep. Three days in row I woke up disappointed and then I remembered: I forgot to put St. John under my new pillow!

See, years ago I had a conversation with a friend about nightmares and bad dreams. She said monastics would often advise placing an icon under one’s pillow in such circumstances. This is done not as a talisman but as a blessing. And so, I began putting paper icons under my pillow.

Not long after that conversation I visited the holy relics of St. John Maximovitch in San Francisco where I met a preistmonk whose great kindness I have never forgotten. This priestmonk invited me to visit St. John’s personal cell, to sit in his armchair that he used as a bed and to venerate his personal icon corner. At the end of this incredible experience he handed me a medallion with an icon of St. John embossed into it along with both the cathedrals he was responsible for in San Francisco and Shanghai. Since that time I kept this icon medallion under my pillow. It was under my pillow when I lived in South Korea, it was under my pillow when I lived in Greece, and now it’s under my pillow in Newfoundland. Even when I travel I try to remember to bring a little paper icon to put under my pillow.

Last night when I had trouble sleeping it dawned on me I had left the medallion in the other pillow since I actually place it into a zipped pillowcase so it doesn’t fall out during the night. (As you may be able to tell from the photograph, it’s fallen a few times). That’s when it occurred to me it may be a good idea to share this tip with others.

I personally have found it gives me more peace, even if it’s just peace of mind knowing there is a little grace-emitting blessing under my pillow. You may find it a helpful practice for yourself as well, and especially for small children who are afraid of the dark or of sleeping alone. This may give them a little extra courage knowing the saint is protecting them.

I have always found holy monasteries to be banks of spiritual knowledge and really believe their customs and practices are so helpful for us out in the world as well. I think it’s good to share the tips we’ve collected along the way so that together we can arrive safely and successfully at the harbour of the Heavenly Kingdom.

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Tips from the Monastery: Keeping an Icon under your Pillow